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FCW : May 15, 2014
Emerging tech 20 December 2013 FCW.COM 22 May 15, 2014 FCW.COM “UAS will assist public safety agen- cies in responding to natural disasters, locating missing persons or helping to fight wildfires,” said Melanie Hinton, senior communications manager at the Association for Unmanned Vehi- cle Systems International. “In addi- tion, UAS will help farmers care for their crops, [help] to identify diseases, and more precisely and safely spray pesticides.” The organization estimates that the first decade of widespread UAS adoption could produce an $82 billion economic boost in the United States. The military likes to say drones are used for dull, dangerous and dirty mis- sions, Hutt said, “but we’re focused on better Earth science applications, greater safety and savings.” He said he expects FAA regulations, especially the requirement that opera- tors maintain line-of-sight contact with drones, will ease as better radar sys- tems and transponders are developed to keep drones out of the way of other aircraft and one another. Industry insiders are developing new tools, but they say the existing technology is exciting in its own right. “Lost-link procedures are pretty standard now, and flight planning is getting better,” said Hutt, adding that although they are not fully autono- mous, many drones have sophisti- cated programming to handle emer- gency landings and extended flights on their own. Roei Ganzarski, CEO of software developer BoldIQ, is particularly bull- ish on drones. “The civilian market, once it’s opened up, will be a lot big- ger than the military market,” he said. Real-time optimization of data is BoldIQ’s stock-in-trade, and Ganzar- ski said software can make sense of drone data nearly instantaneously. Noting that concerns about the prevalence of drones are similar to public fears surrounding the advent of commercial aviation, he added, “There’s a view that [drones] will be flying around like mosquitoes, en masse, crashing into each other.” But with modern programming, drone fleets can be integrated with one another and the surrounding envi- ronment, and dynamic optimization will allow drones to react quickly and competently to changes in the envi- ronment, Ganzarski said. “The tech barriers [to UAS integra- tion] don’t exist,” he said. “The barrier is the fear of the unknown.” ■ Zach Noble is an editorial fellow for Washington Technology. Put simply, unmanned aircraft systems serve two main purposes: picking up images and dropping off packages. Thus far, the packages have mainly been military — for example, missiles dropped on a Taliban train- ing camp — but Amazon’s much-hyped Prime Air ven- ture has spurred specula- tion that drone-based deliv- ery of letters, newspapers and boxes could be right around the corner. William Foster, publisher and editor of the “HBCU Money” blog, estimated that deploying mature drone delivery technol- ogy could save the U.S. Postal Service as much as $13.9 billion annually, nearly erasing the troubled agency’s annual deficit. More drones would mean less money spent on fuel and truck maintenance and fewer delivery employ- ees, which would cut salary costs and pension obligations. “It was technology that brought the Postal Service to its knees, and it could very well be technology that helps the phoenix rise from the ashes,” Foster wrote in a December 2013 blog post. USPS officials, however, say they are not taking the lead on developing drone delivery technology. “The Postal Service has played an integral role in the development of every major type of transporta- tion, but at the moment [drone delivery] is not something we’re looking at,” USPS spokeswoman Sue Brennan said. “It’s not on the table.” So for now, drone deliv- ery of the mail or newspa- pers will remain the stuff of April Fools’ jokes. — Zach Noble USPS: Down on drone deliveries “We’re finding that $1,000 cameras are giving us data that we used to rely on $400,000 mapping tools to get.” — MIKE HUTT, USGS
April 30, 2014
May 30, 2014